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Furry Fin­nish friends sniff out coro­n­avirus

Dogs trained to screen pas­sen­ger sam­ples at air­port

- Jari Tan­ner Pets · Dogs · Travel · Hobbies · Helsinki · Finland · University of Helsinki · Australia · France · Germany · United States of America · Dubai · Helsinki Airport · Dubai International Airport · Vantaa

HELSINKI – Fin­land has de­ployed coro­n­avirus-sniff­ing dogs at the Nordic coun­try’s main in­ter­na­tional air­port in a four-month trial of an al­ter­na­tive test­ing method that could be­come a cost-friendly and quick way to iden­tify in­fected trav­el­ers.

Four dogs of dif­fer­ent breeds trained by Fin­land’s Smell De­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion started work­ing Wed­nes­day at the Helsinki Air­port as part of the gov­ern­ment-fi­nanced trial.

“It’s a very promis­ing method. Dogs are very good at sniff­ing,” said Anna Hielm-Bjork­man, a Univer­sity of Helsinki pro­fes­sor of equine and small an­i­mal medicine.

“If it works, it will be a good (coro­n­avirus) screen­ing method at any other places,” she said, list­ing hos­pi­tals, ports, el­derly peo­ple’s homes, sports venues and cul­tural events among pos­si­ble lo­ca­tions where trained dogs could put their snouts to work.

While re­searchers in sev­eral coun­tries, in­clud­ing Australia, France, Ger­many the United States, are also study­ing ca­nines as coro­n­avirus de­tec­tors, the Fin­nish trial is among the largest so far.

Hielm-Bjork­man told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Fin­land is the sec­ond coun­try – and the first in Europe – to as­sign dogs to sniff out the coro­n­avirus. A sim­i­lar pro­gram started at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port over the sum­mer.

Pas­sen­gers who agree to take a free test un­der the vol­un­tary pro­gram in Helsinki do not have di­rect phys­i­cal con­tact with a dog.

They are asked to swipe their skin with a wipe, which is then put into a jar and given to a dog wait­ing in a sep­a­rate booth. The par­tic­i­pat­ing an­i­mals – ET,

“Dogs need to rest from time to time. If the scent is easy, it doesn’t wear out the dog too much. But if there are lots of new scents around, dogs do get tired eas­ier.“

Anette Kare Fin­land’s Smell De­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion – also known as Wise Nose.

Kossi, Mi­ina and Valo – pre­vi­ously un­der­went train­ing to de­tect cancer, di­a­betes or other dis­eases.

It takes the dog a mere 10 sec­onds to sniff the virus sam­ples be­fore it gives the test re­sult by scratch­ing a paw, lay­ing down, bark­ing or oth­er­wise mak­ing its con­clu­sion known. The process should be com­pleted within one minute, ac­cord­ing to Hielm-Bjork­man.

If the re­sult is pos­i­tive, the pas­sen­ger is urged to take a stan­dard poly­merase chain re­ac­tion, or PCR, coro­n­avirus test, to check the dog’s ac­cu­racy.

Timo Aronkyto, the deputy mayor of Van­taa, the cap­i­tal re­gion city where the air­port is lo­cated, said the pro­gram is cost­ing ap­prox­i­mately $350,000 – an amount he called “re­mark­ably lower” than for other meth­ods of mass test­ing ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers.

The four snif­fer dogs are set to work in shifts, with two on duty at a time while the other two get a break.

“Dogs need to rest from time to time. If the scent is easy, it doesn’t wear out the dog too much. But if there are lots of new scents around, dogs do get tired eas­ier,“Anette Kare of Fin­land’s Smell De­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion – also known as Wise Nose – said as she gen­tly pat­ted ET, her white shep­herd.

 ?? ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/AP ?? Snif­fer dogs named Kossi, left, and Mi­ina hang out with trainer Su­sanna Paav­i­lainen at the Helsinki air­port in Van­taa, Fin­land, on Tues­day. The dogs have been trained to de­tect the coro­n­avirus.
ANTTI AIMO-KOIVISTO/AP Snif­fer dogs named Kossi, left, and Mi­ina hang out with trainer Su­sanna Paav­i­lainen at the Helsinki air­port in Van­taa, Fin­land, on Tues­day. The dogs have been trained to de­tect the coro­n­avirus.

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